The Four Big Questions About Liposuction

Liposuction remains one of the most popular and successful of all cosmetic plastic surgery procedures. Patients considering the procedure have many typical question about it and here are the most common.

How much weight should I lose before having liposuction?

Ideally, liposuction is best used as a ‘spot’ treatment for resistant areas of fat. This would imply that one should be near to what they consider to be their ideal body weight. On a more practical basis, one’s weight should be down to what can be achieved with a reasonable effort.

The ‘weight loss before liposuction’ approach is best for two reasons. First, the amount of liposuction needed will be less…and less surgery of any kind is always better than more. Secondly and most importantly, the losing weight process allows one to have made lifestyle changes before surgery. The effort to do so and the induced lifestyle changes provide for a better chance that the liposuction results will be longer lasting.

What type of liposuction is the best?

There are numerous liposuction devices currently available such as ultrasonic, laser (hot), and water jet (cool)devices. With these methods comes the associated marketing and hype that is associated with the manufacturers as well as endorsements by surgeons. In addition, because some of these devices are new, they are promoted as the latest and the greatest.

What all these liposuction technologies share is that they are used for the first phase of the surgical process…loosening up the fat…which is then suctioned out as the second phase. Whether anyone of these methods is better than another can be debated but no one can conclusively prove that one is better than another. The reason is that the technology is only as effective as the surgeon who is using it.

The current use of Snartlipo (laser-assisted liposuction) has a three or four year history of widespread clinical use. While just a promising tool a few years ago, today’s units have higher powers, temperature monitoring, and multiple wavelengths. The very sensitive nature of fat cells to heat makes this technology very appealing and effective.

 Are liposuction results permanent?

One of the common myths is that once fat is removed, it can not come back. As patients often say, ‘I have heard that once fat cells are removed, they can not return.’

This perception is false for two reasons. First, not all fat cells are removed from any area that is suctioned. That is not only impossible but unaesthetically undesireable. There needs to be a certain layer of fat between the skin and the muscles so the skin is not stuck down and tethered. Secondly, stem cells exist in fat which always have the potential to turn into fat cells if properly stimulated. Excess food intake and the need for fat storage is just the stimulus for fat re-accumulation.

The best answer is that the long-term results from liposuction are stable if your weight remains fairly stable. If you gain weight of any significance (greater than five pounds), it has to go somewhere and that will likely be from whence it was originally removed.

How much time should I allow for recovery before going on vacation or a trip?

It is quite common that I see patients who have a trip or vacation planned and want to do some body shaping before they go. The biggest mistake is to not give enough time for a ‘full recovery’. You don’t want to go on a well planned and long thought out trip only to still be sore or limited in what you can do and enjoy. Depending on the number of body areas and amount of liposuction, I would allow for at least six to eight weeks (as a minimum) before leaving. Three months is most ideal.

There are also some patients who want to use a trip to recover and their intent is to go and lay around somewhere. In this case, I would recommend one week before you leave.

Dr. Barry Eppley